It’s Sonic the Hedgehog’s 30th birthday this year, and IDW is celebrating with this huge 80 page special dedicated to telling stories set in the classic Genesis era of everybody’s favorite supersonic blue blur. Put simply, the Sonic the Hedgehog 30th Anniversary one-shot is huge, and every page of it jam-packed with love, care, and attention.
The first story is written by none other than Ian Flynn, Sonic’s most prolific writer in comics. His story is the longest, taking up about half of the page count. It’s well worth it though, since it’s easily the best story of the three we get. In Flynn’s story, we see a Sonic Mania inspired tale about Sonic and friends chasing after the forces of Eggman’s army, including fan favorite robots like Metal Sonic and… Metal Knuckles, an extremely deep cut character that has had little chance to shine. It’s a fun romp, with plenty of comedy, action and stellar artwork to keep you turning the page.
Flynn is really in his element here, even more so than usual. The deep cut that is Metal Knuckles, and seeing visual homages to Sonic 3 & Knuckles‘ opening cutscene for a Knuckles run was just icing on an already layered cake of nerdy fan service. We even get a namedrop of another fan favorite robot, S3&K’s Mecha Sonic, who became extremely popular due to his inclusion in tons of fan works over the years. I’m barely scratching the surface, and I’m sure if I re-read this book a dozen times I’d still have new things I could pick up on. It’s going to be one of those books I read again from time to time just to see what else there is for me to enjoy, and if that’s not the hallmark of a great comic, I don’t know what is.
The art in this story is done by a myriad of different people, some newcomers and some names I recognize from the main title. We have Aaron Hammerstrom, Thomas Rothlisberger, and even veteran Sonic comic artist Tracey Yardley throwing in for a page or two. We also have Reggie Graham and Matt Froese on inks, with Graham also doing colors. Graham’s colors here really make the art, serving as the connective tissue that blends each artist’s styles together and makes it all feel seamless. I’m not surprised it took so many people to get this out, considering how long it is, but I’m happy to see they all brought their A-games.
In a way, it feels like the spiritual successor to the tragically cut short Sonic: Megadrive from Archie Comics, a story written by Flynn and drawn by popular Sonic artist Tyson Hesse. That story met its unfortunate premature end because of Archie’s sudden cancellation of its Sonic line, leaving the nearly complete book locked away for the rest of time. While this is no Megadrive #3, the story does feel on its level of quality, and gives you the sense that it’s trying to finally give that fan favorite book some long overdue closure. Easily the highlight of the entire special.
The second story is written by the McElroy family (known for their various popular podcasts among other things) and drawn by Mauro Fonseca with colours by Valentina Pinto. In it, we follow Sonic taking a driving exam in order to enter a car race to win a lifetime supply of his favorite food… chili dogs, of course! This story is much shorter but is extremely funny, poking fun and rolling with the popular jab that fans have with the Sonic racing games like Sonic R or Team Sonic Racing for making a speedster have to drive.
I’m surprised that they actually managed to get more pages of gags out of the concept than I would have thought, while having them all land and be genuinely pretty funny. There’s also some stealth references to the IDW Sonic canon, like Nite the Owl’s radio show, so it’s obviously done by, and meant for, fans who would enjoy deep cuts like that. I also love how the McElroys write Sonic here, leaning a bit more into the “’90s punk with attitude” and general Gremlin-esque interpretation many fans have of the Classic era version of the character.
The art is quite different than the usual IDW Sonic offerings, but not at all in a bad way. The line art and inks are very bold with thick lines that lean into the cartoonish aesthetic of Sonic’s design. Despite taking place and being framed almost entirely through the windshield of the car, it still manages to be quite animated and expressive. I’d love to see this art team come back at some point, they really did a good job.
The third and final story is an Eggman-centric one (or Dr. Robotnik if one prefers, given that this is supposed to be classic Sonic and all), written by Gale Galligan with pencils by Thomas Rothlisberger and colors by Nathalie Fourdraine. It’s another cute little short story, all about how Robotnik’s badniks trying to do something nice for their creator… by trying to defeat Sonic for him, of course. They don’t succeed, but it’s the thought that counts, right? It ends on the grumpy ol’ Robuttnik coming around to his creations’ affection, which is just downright wholesome. The highlight here is certainly the art, which is very stylized and visually interesting, even amongst two other stories that also have extremely colorful and expressive artwork. I love how well the colors pop with the thinner line work, and expression reminiscent of Tyson Hesse’s work. It’s a great little story to end this fantastic special on.
This book is wonderful, and I cannot understate that. I’ve been chomping at the bit for IDW to finally get the go-ahead to start publishing stories set during Sonic’s classic era, and this not only delivers, but exceeded all my expectations. Between deep cuts and the utilization of underrepresented fan favorites, it really reminded me of the best of IDW’s series, and even the old Archie books as well. Every story is crafted with reverence for the material, and the kind of care and love that only fans could provide for other fans. This is, by far, the greatest issue of IDW’s entire Sonic catalogue yet. I only hope we get more like this in the future. Cheers to every single creative involved!
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